The more than 100 Australian crew members stranded for weeks on cruise ships off the US coast following tough Trump administration coronavirus restrictions may finally be rescued.
The Australian government announced on Tuesday Australian crew may be allowed to join UK and European crew and be flown or take a cruise ship to England.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is currently aware of 128 Australian crew on 57 ships.
Australian officials are "optimistic" a good number of Australian crew will be able to disembark before the end of this month.
"Australia is working with cruise companies and also coordinating with a number of foreign governments, to facilitate the movement of crew members," a DFAT spokesperson told AAP.
US authorities will not allow crew to travel on commercial aircraft or other forms of public transportation in the US because of the threat they may have COVID-19.
Crew members also cannot disembark at a US port because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and port authorities require cruise lines to organise chartered flights.
Australian officials "understand" the CDC restrictions may relax the rules from Friday, but only crew who have never been symptomatic or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be allowed to disembark.
Cruise lines are also making travel arrangements to repatriate crew.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has tentative plans for Australians and New Zealanders to be included on a charter flight for European crew to London on April 28.
Crew on Carnival, HAL and Princess ships may be transferred from four Princess cruise ships and four HAL ships onto the Regal Princess, scheduled to depart on April 21 to Southampton, England, then The Netherlands between May 1 to 4.
"Our information from the cruise lines is that Australian and New Zealand crew members are likely to be included with the European crew and Australian consular officials have been making representations to the cruise lines to endorse this route for Australians where possible," the Australian Embassy said in a message on Twitter.
There are four Australians on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas ship floating off Florida.
Amber Jenkins, a 22-year-old dancer from Kempsey who was performing on Adventure of the Seas, said she has been on the ship since January.
It offloaded the last of its passengers 37 days ago, leaving just the crew on the ship.
"We have received a letter from the Australian government saying they know of our situation and are working to help us get home with the US and organising charter flights," Jenkins told AAP.
"Royal are doing the same."
Jenkins said her cruise company has been looking after the crew and they remain in good spirits.
They wear masks, are able to move around the ship while maintaining social distancing and have WiFi so can connect with family and friends.
"I try to keep fit exercising and running and recently started practising yoga a lot more, which has been extremely beneficial," she said.
"As I'm a dancer, I try to keep stretched and often learn some choreography."
Australian Associated Press